Ahead of its time
Flashlight Generates Own Power (Jun, 1935)

Flashlight Generates Own Power
A BATTERY-LESS, vest-pocket flashlight, which generates its own electricity by hand-manipulation of a lever controlling a built-in magneto, has been invented in England.
Small and flat, this current-generating flashlight casts a strong beam and is not affected by cold or heat. A magneto is built in.

Augmented Reality (Aug, 1962)

‘Seeing Things’ with Electrocular
YOU can look two ways at once with this 30-oz. electro-optical viewing device. The Electrocular uses a miniature cathode ray tube 7 in. long, a deflecting mirror, a focusing lens, and a dichroic filter viewing eyepiece to present a TV-type image without distracting from the work in front of you.
The developer, Hughes Aircraft Co., Fuller-ton, Calif., says the unit will let a repairman work on the rear of a digital analog panel (Fig. 1) while closed-circuit TV camera (outlined) pipes the results to him from the screen in front. Or a pilot (Fig. 2) can see a TV picture of air traffic information and ground conditions while he’s still in flight.

The First Disposable Camera (Sep, 1949)

Apparently, this is one of those ideas that takes 30-40 years to catch on.

Mailbox Camera
HOW often have you arrived at a scenic beauty spot without your camera? A. D. Weir got caught on this pictorial limb so many times that he decided to do something about it.

The simplest remedy was a pre-loaded camera which could be rented at a near-by store for a small fee. That wasn’t a new idea—but in the past, devices to handle film inside such a camera had cost too much. Weir, a mechanical engineer, worked out a plan for feeding the 35-mm film without using a metal spool or winding device.

So, now you can drop into your drugstore, ask for a Photo-Pac and for $1.29 you get the loaded camera. After you take your eight exposures, you drop the entire unit in the mailbox. A few days later the mailman brings your prints and negatives. For helping to convert Uncle Sam’s mailboxes into darkrooms, we’re sending Mr. Weir Mi’s $50 Prize Gadget Award.

An Automatic Machine Tool (Sep, 1952)

This is the fourth in a series of 5 articles I’ve scanned from an amazing 1952 issue of Scientific American about Automatic Control. Discussing automatic machine tools, feedback loops, and the role of computers in manufacturing and information theory, these are really astounding articles considering the time in which they were written.

This article is a fascinating exploration of the history and state of the art in automatic machine tools as of 1952. This is the CAM in CAD/CAM.

An Automatic Machine Tool

Feedback control has begun to advance in the working of metals. Presenting the first account of a milling machine that converts information on punched tape into the contours of a finished part.

by William Pease

THE metal-cutting industry is one field in which automatic control has been late in arriving. The speed, judgment and especially the flexibility with which a skilled machinist controls his machine tool have not been easily duplicated by automatic machines. Only for mass-production operations such as the making of automobile parts has it been feasible to employ automatic machinery. New developments in feedback control and machine computation, however, are now opening the door to automatization of machine tools built to produce a variety of parts in relatively small quantities.

The problem will be clearer if we first review briefly the history of machine tools and their relationship to manufacturing processes. The story begins in the last quarter of the 18th century. Prior to that time the tools of the millwright, as the machinist of that day was called, consisted chiefly of the hammer, chisel and file. His measurements were made with a wooden rule and crude calipers. His materials were prepared either by hand-forging or by rudimentary foundry casting. Crude, hand-powered lathes were already in existence, but they were used only for wood-turning or occasionally for making clock parts.

Ionic Breeze ’38 (Jan, 1938)

I’m crushed. I can’t believe the Sharper Image would lie to me like this. For years they’ve been telling us that they are the inventors of the ionic breeze, that it’s space age technology, a miracle of modern science. But it was all a big lie, now I know it was actually invented buy some undetermined person in 1938.

Sharper Image, how can I ever trust you again?

Electrostatic Device Clears Air Of Smoke, Pollen
DESIGNED for home or factory use, a compact electrostatic air cleaner device was recently placed on exhibition at a convention of iron and steel engineers held in Chicago, Ill. The new cleaner is said to remove dust, smoke, and pollen from the air more efficiently than ever before.

In operation the electrostatic cleaner forces the air through an ionizing screen and the solid particles in it, 90% of which would pass through the average filter, are electrically charged. The air is then passed over grounded plates, causing the dust and pollen particles to cling to them.

Pocket-Sized Radio Used in Private Paging System (Apr, 1956)

My question is, what is an “confined induction loop area”? Does that mean you have to surround your building with an antenna?

Pocket-Sized Radio Used in Private Paging System
Private and individual paging of personnel in plants and offices is possible with Motorola’s pocket-sized “Handie-Talkie.” Weighing only 10 ounces and slightly larger than a package of king-size cigarettes, the set is carried on the person. Its use eliminates the need for public-address type paging and loud call devices such as bells.
A typical paging system, using the “Handie-Talkie,” consists of a selector console with individual buttons for key personnel, and an FM transmitter that radiates alerting tones and voice messages within a confined induction loop area. The receiver is powered by a 4-volt mercury battery and is free from the noise interference common to many industrial establishments. Up to several hundred persons can be paged individually. (Motorola Communications and Electronics, Inc., 4501 Augusta Blvd., Chicago 51, 111.).


This is the third in a series of 5 articles I’ve scanned from an amazing 1952 issue of Scientific American about Automatic Control. Discussing automatic machine tools, feedback loops, and the role of computers in manufacturing and information theory, these are really astounding articles considering the time in which they were written.


The multifarious control loops of a fully automatic factory must be gathered into one big loop. This can best be done by means of a digital computing machine

by Louis N. Ridenour

IF THE thermostat is a prime elementary example of the principle of automatic control, the computer is its most sophisticated expression. The thermostat and other simple control mechanisms, such as the automatic pilot and engine-governor, are specialized devices limited to a single function. An automatic pilot can control an airplane but would be helpless if faced with the problem of driving a car. Obviously for fully automatic control we must have mechanisms that simulate the generalized abilities of a human being, who can operate the damper on a furnace, drive a car or fly a plane, set a rheostat to control a voltage, work the throttle of an engine, and do many other things besides. The modern computer is the first machine to approach such general abilities.

Computer is really an inadequate name for these machines. They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them. The name has somewhat obscured the fact that they are capable of much greater generality. When these machines are applied to automatic control, they will permit a vast extension of the control art— an extension from the use of rather simple specialized control mechanisms, which merely assist a human operator in doing a complicated task, to over-all controllers which will supervise a whole job. They will be able to do so more rapidly, more reliably, more cheaply and with just as much ingenuity as a human operator.


This is the first in a series of 5 articles I’ve scanned from an amazing 1952 issue of Scientific American about Automatic Control. It discusses automatic machine tools, feedback loops, the role of computers in manufacturing and information theory. These are really astounding articles considering the time in which they were written, plus they have some great pictures (not this one so much, but the others).

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


An introduction to seven articles about self-regulating machines, which represent a scientific and technological revolution that will powerfully shape the future of man

by Ernest Nagel

AUTOMATIC CONTROL is not a new thing in the world. Self-regulative mechanisms are an inherent feature of innumerable processes in nature, living and non-living. Men have long recognized the existence of such mechanisms in living forms, although, to be sure, they have often mistaken automatic regulation for the operation of some conscious design or vital force. Even the deliberate construction of self-regulating machines is no innovation: the history of such devices goes back at least several hundred years.

Nevertheless, the preacher’s weary cry that there is nothing new under the sun is at best a fragment of the truth. The general notion of automatic control may be ancient, but the formulation of its principles is a very recent achievement. And the systematic exploitation of these principles—their subtle theoretical elaboration and far-reaching practical application—must be credited to the 20th century. When human intelligence is disciplined by the analytical methods of modern science, and fortified by modern material resources and techniques, it can transform almost beyond recognition the most familiar aspects of the physical and social scene. There is surely a profound difference between a primitive recognition that some mechanisms are self-regulative while others are not, and the invention of an analytic theory which not only accounts for the gross facts but guides the construction of new types of systems.

Growing Blanket of Carbon Dioxide Raises Earth’s Temperature (Aug, 1953)

Normally I don’t post articles without pictures, but this one just floored me. This little blurb from 53 years ago perfectly sums up the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Growing Blanket of Carbon Dioxide Raises Earth’s Temperature
Earth’s ground temperature is rising 1-1/2 degrees a century as a result of carbon dioxide discharged from the burning of about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal and oil yearly. According to Dr. Gilbert N. Plass of the Johns Hopkins University, this discharge augments a blanket of gas around the world which is raising the temperature in the same manner glass heats a greenhouse. By 2080, he predicts the air’s carbon-dioxide content will double, resulting in an average temperature rise of at least four percent. If most of man’s industrial growth were over a period of several thousand years, instead of being crowded within the last century, oceans would have absorbed most of the excess carbon dioxide. But because of the slow circulation of the seas, they have had little effect in reducing the amount of the gas as man’s smoke-making abilities have multiplied over the past hundred years.

Drop Dead Cigarette Box (Jan, 1965)

From the department of unintentional irony:


For the man who is dying for a cigarette, this 3-3/4″ x 1″ x 1-1/2″ completely metal, copper color coffin is a true replica of the real thing… Beware—your friends will fall in love with it. So-O-O buy several for gifts.
No others like it! Send $2.00 for each prepaid DROP DEAD COFFIN to
Andrea Specialties, Dept. S.M., 2700 Point Breeze Drive, Wilmington, Delaware 18903.